Our Take on the Proposed Bahamian Flats Fishing Regulations

Written by: Perk Perkins, CEO at Orvis

Photo by Brian Grossenbacher

By now many of you have either read or heard discussion around the draft of proposed flats fishing regulations in the Bahamas. If you are not familiar with the proposed legislation you can read it here.

It has certainly been the topic of much discussion around the office here at Orvis, and I wanted to take a moment to offer a few thoughts. Much of the language you’ll read here has also appeared in an open letter of comment that’s been submitted to the Bahamian Ministry of Fisheries.

To better understand the potential impact of the proposed legislation on what is an international travel destination, I asked our travel department manager to reach out to a number of our travel partners to glean the common themes from their reactions. I think this is imperative to creating a constructive dialogue and an informed letter of comment, one that includes the sentiments of many stakeholders.

As a collective, we strongly support the efforts of the Bahamian Government to manage their fishing resources as they are invaluable; not only to the local economy, but as a singular and remarkable natural resource that draws thousands of anglers from around the world each year.

The Bahamas is one of the more progressive countries in the Caribbean in its conservation of its marine resources and that leadership should be commended, supported, and continued. That should be at the heart of this legislation. The country’s restrictions on long lining and harvesting sharks are notable examples.

User fees based on a fair and accessible permit system, where proceeds are dedicated to support the science and the conservation of the resource, are unassailable as the foundation for the protection of the resource, but at the same time there must be a democratic process where different voices and constituencies can have the opportunity to shape a fair outcome.

Initially, this comment period is much too brief and the process too rushed to ensure a strong and mutually beneficial outcome for all concerned stakeholders.

What is at stake here is not only the protection of this resource, but fair and equitable legislation that protects the resource while at the same time strengthening the economic value of that resource to the local Bahamian economy.

As long-time stakeholders in Bahamian tourism as it pertains to angling, we believe parts of this legislation are too restrictive, too subjective, and as it stands will do more harm than good. Years of experience tell us that the potential for a decline in angling visits is significant, given the growth of other markets combined with the difficult and uncertain nature of certain aspects of this draft legislation for visiting anglers.

There are many excellent precedents on fisheries legislation around the world – practices that have stood the test of time – and the effectiveness of those regulations are documented and easily observed in those parts of the world. The wheel does not have to be re-invented in the Bahamas. There are experienced voices from those parts of the world who can well advise on legislation for the Bahamas.

I’d like to share our comments to the draft with you as they were shared with the Ministry of Fisheries – in the spirit of constructive and thoughtful dialogue as a means to a stronger resource and vibrant Bahamian economy moving forward. You can read them here.

Public comment on the proposed regulations ends tomorrow, Friday, June 26. Please feel free to email your thoughts or share our comments with the Bahamian Ministry of Fisheries at fisheries@bahamas.gov.bs.

9 thoughts on “Our Take on the Proposed Bahamian Flats Fishing Regulations”

  1. If you’re not from there, where do you get off telling them how they should do things? Shouldn’t’ Bahamains decide what’s best for them? It’s not like they’re offshore oil drilling–like say, us, for example.

    1. It is important to remember that many people/entities may have a vested interest in the Bahamian fishery even if they aren’t “Bahamians.” For instance, Orvis likely partners with many lodges and guides in the region (not to mention spends millions on conservation efforts) so it is clear they have a vested interest in the Bahamian fishery and have a right to express their concerns with legislation that would affect the fishery. Likewise, there are likely many people who aren’t citizens of the Bahamas but they own homes or business there and pay property taxes. Those folks have a vested interest in the fishery legislation and how it may affects tourism. And, what about the anglers that go there every year, many of them have been going for maybe 10, 20, or 30 years and spending thousands of dollars each trip. Do they not have an interest in this legislation and how it may affect the money they spend or the lodges they visit every year?

  2. With regard to the above question “how do we get off…”, I should have added that we/Orvis were asked by the ministry of tourism, the ministry of fisheries and BFFIA (Bahamanian Fly Fishing Association) to comment on the draft legislation because they value the economic stimulus of American Anglers traveling to the Bahamas to fish the flats. All three of these bodies consider our company to be a partner and a supporter of their fishery and their economy. Criticism accepted if you felt we came off with too much “should” instead of “please consider”.

  3. If you don’t like it then don’t fish there. When they realize their tourisism dollars are being spent elsewhere then they may rethink their position. Which by the way is theirs to make.
    We have our own problems right here in this country why can’t we put our selfs first?

    Posted from the Orvis Fly Fishing App

    1. That’s exactly the concern that many Bahamians have…that people will stop going there and the industry will suffer. By most accounts this is legislation that is supported by a minority of lodges/guides and it reeks of potential cronyism or corruption. Perhaps you don’t have any interest in fishing the Bahamas and that is fine, but there are many foreigners (especially Americans) who do and this effects them directly. Either way I don’t see how commenting on these proposed laws, which the Bahamian government is actually encouraging the fly fishing community to do, takes away from any “problems right here in this country”.

  4. Perk
    Some very good observations made and I hope they take them on board. The questions related to parents, fathering etc are I think covered insofar one would not normally expect parents to be paid. They do suggest that the guide (individual) will be receiving compensation.
    Your observations re the fees are very salient. Wherever I fish I have to pay for a permit/licence. In the UK it varies dependent of the species with day rates or annual and makes no difference if you are a National or not. Mexico weekly, etc etcm they are usually reasonable sums which are rolled into the overall costs. I can’t say I notice them. I think it is important they raise funds for conservation but would hate for them to loose business because the costs are off putting.
    Well done to Orvis anyway for getting involved.

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  6. Perk, thanks for taking the time to put in the effort on behalf of those of us whom found out at the last minute and are just too busy with work, family, and volunteering to respond.

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